Congressman Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., participated in a congressional meeting during the Muwekma Ohlone Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh’s D.C. tour, geared toward garnering legislative support for the restoration of the Tribe’s federal recognition.
In the meeting, members of the Bay Area delegation unexpectedly turned the meeting into a hostile confrontation over the Tribe’s supporters calling out members of the delegation for succumbing to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren’s pressure. Lofgren does not want the Tribe to attain full recognition, and has put conditions of economic sanctions on any legislation that could be sponsored.
I was stunned when I listened to the recording of the meeting when Swalwell said the Tribe was “aiming arrows” at Congress in a blatantly racist manner. Congressman Ro Khanna piggybacked on this remark to claim the Tribe doesn’t understand colonialism as much as he does.
We in the Bay Area, on Muwekma lands, are united in support of the Tribe. As a former member of the Tribal Council I expect better from the congressional delegation. They are not only using politically hostile tactics and engaging in problematic discourse—which is rooted in white supremacy and a colonialist mindset—they are not representing their constituents. I know this because I am one, I live in the East Bay in Congressman Swalwell’s district, and I am active in our community.
Five Bay Area Democratic parties have endorsed Muwekma’s restoration of federal recognition, and the Tribe received support from the five Bay Area legislators with SJR 13. A large swath of academics and community leaders have also stepped up to speak out in support of Muwekma. The delegation ought to listen to their constituencies and do the right thing.
Supporting Muwekma’s federal recognition is just and puts leaders on the right side of history.
The bloodbaths of the past, and genocidal policies instituted by California’s founders must not be forgotten and they must not be perpetuated by special interests, personal and petty political disagreements, or, by a select few in power. Leaders should be using their power, privilege and position to fight for justice. And, not only fight for justice, but secure justice so that we can put the remnants of colonialism behind us.
This does not have to be complicated. We do not have to repeat the past. Our congressional delegation ought to do some soul-searching and realize that they have the opportunity to forge a freer, more just future. It starts with attaining justice for Muwekma.
Gloria Arellano Gómez is a community leader in the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, former council member for the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Council and a constituent of Congressman Eric Swalwell.